Coveted: Miles Keller’s Kona Lounger

Miles Keller's Kona Lounger

Miles Keller’s Kona Lounger

Currently in Toronto, the emerald ash borer beetle is decimating the city’s ash trees. Over the next 10 years, about 860,000 trees will be felled because of the invasive species. Instead of simply mulching or trashing the trunks, industrial designer Miles Keller, founder of Toronto-based Dystil studio, hopes we can come up with a creative reuse. Turning the logs into art, say, or furniture. (Because the beetle kills the tree by attacking its bark, it doesn’t affect the integrity of the wood.) For his part, Keller has used ash reclaimed from a city woodlot in Scarborough to design a graceful lounger. Called Kona, after the Cree word for snow, it pays tribute to the long history of ash as a valuable construction material for Canada’s First Nations people. Because the wood is lightweight and a good shock absorber, it was used for thousands of years as staffs for spears or frames for dog sleds. Fittingly, Keller’s fine joinery is reminiscent of a hockey stick, and the shape and leather meshing brings to mind a giant snowshoe. From $3,500. Through dystil.ca.

This piece originally appeared in the Globe and Mail on Thursday, February 27, 2014.

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Bathtubs Are Dead (or, Rather, Dying), Long Live Bathtubs

Photo c/o bettywasserman.com

Photo c/o bettywasserman.com

Most kitchens are filled with “good idea” investments – those gadgets, tools and appliances that were a good idea in the store, but which collect dust most of the year because, let’s face it, who’s really going to scratch-make pasta, bread or Belgian waffles on a regular basis?

In the bathroom, the equivalent might just be the tub. Scheduling a moment to draw a bath, let alone soak in one, is a near inconceivable indulgence considering that most Canadians work such long hours (almost two-thirds of us put in more than 45 hours a week on the job, according to a 2012 study). And with our aging population, tubs are increasingly trip-and-slip hazards rather than relaxation devices.

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Toys “R” Cool (Pharrell Says So)

A piece from the Design Exchange's new show, This is Not a Toy

A piece from the Design Exchange’s new show, This is Not a Toy

Anyone who recalls childhood toys as innocent playthings is likely misremembering. Figurines, cutesy or otherwise, are often just avatars for exploring the world, both its good and bad bits. I used to remove my stuffed animals’ appendices (white batting everywhere) in an effort to save their disease-addled lives. And I know people who twisted their Kens and Barbies into compromising positions (fine, that was me, too), well before any ideas of sex were fully concretized.

It’s with this spirit – that toys convey a complex, often adult, set of ideas – that the Design Exchange, a.k.a. DX, Canada’s national design museum, has launched its latest show. Provocatively titled This Is Not A Toy, and co-curated by Pharrell Williams – one of the world’s most influential tastemakers in music, fashion and everything, really – the exhibit is a vibrant, often funny, sometimes grotesque, slightly sadistic (one doll is covered in little needles) survey of limited-edition art toys by innovative, small-batch designers.

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